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By Euno Lee
No Thai dish is subject to more controversy in the "is it authentic?" debate than pad Thai. Introduced to Thailand during World War II by de facto ruler Plaek Phibunsongkhram as a way to increase the popularity of rice noodles (Thailand remains the second biggest exporter of rice on planet earth, behind India), the stir fried dish meaning "fried Thai style" has become metonymous with Thai cuisine stateside, a representative of the cuisine's interplay between sweet, sour, and savory. Stir-frying is a decidedly Chinese method preparation, but the debate rages on as to whether or not pad Thai, a dish dreamed up in 1939, is authentic in a culinary culture that dates back to at least the 13th century.
Cultural merits of authenticity notwithstanding, there is one issue that is not a matter of debate: pad Thai is one of Thailand's greatest culinary exports stateside, and it's a ubiquitous, if not outright compulsory dish on just about every menu serving Thai food. As to the places that make it exceptionally well? Aside from Hollywood's Thai Town, look out for some surprise geographical outliers. Here are 18 must-try pad Thai dishes in Los Angeles.
1. Sticky Rice Two
After pledging not to serve stir-fried noodle dishes at his original Sticky Rice location, restaurateur Dave Tewasart found a workaround: He simply opened a noodle stand behind Sticky Rice and dubbed it Sticky Rice Two. In addition a fantastic khao soi, Tewasart serves up one of the best pad thais in the city. The springy, thin rice noodles pack a neat balance of sweet and sour, and come spruced up with julienned carrots and a smattering of crushed red pepper.
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